For businesses and organizations, getting timely, relevant and credible legal information is the key, not only for competitive advantage but for survival as well.

Soumya Shekhar, our next pathbreaker, an independent legal research professional, renders legal research and writing solutions to Law Firms, Legal Startups, Edutech platforms and Universities to help them navigate the complex legal maze.

Soumya talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about aspiring to leverage her writing skills and contribute to the legal field through legal research consulting services.

For students, when you look within yourself and understand your strengths, you automatically know the career that explores your potential to the fullest.

Soumya, tell us about Your background?

I come from Patna, Bihar. I finished my schooling from Notre Dame Academy Patna. My father was a professor and mother, a home-maker. Since childhood my parents taught me to take studies very seriously. As a result I was among the top-rankers of my class. I had an avid interest in reading and as a concomitant effect, I started writing at an early age of 10. This love for words is what attracted me to law. In class 12, I got my hands on a Law of Torts book. This piqued my interest in law and I decided to sit for the law entrance exams. I secured an AIR 16 in the AILET exam and got through National Law University, Delhi.

What did you do for graduation/post graduation?

I have done a B.A.LL.B(Hons.)  from National Law University, Delhi and a LLM in corporate and financial services law from National University of Singapore. Both the experiences have been immensely enriching.

What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and unique career?

Law gives a lot of scope for word-play. You get to choose your interpretations of a law and then justify the same. At the same time, it is a very analytical field, where nothing is white or black, everything is gray. Your argumentative skills are all that matter. It is this nature of law, which attracted me towards it. It was not any person which influenced me to take up law, but my awareness that my skills would be best suited for this profession. I was a voracious reader, a budding writer and had a penchant for public speaking. I wanted to apply my skills to the legal profession, where I thought my skills could be best put to use.

How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path

I was one of the very few people from my batch to land a tier-1 law firm job. It was a completely new field and I learnt a lot. However, I had that hunger which always kept me wanting for more. In order to pursue my passion for learning I decided to go for a Masters’ degree. Fortunately, I secured admission at National University of Singapore, with a full scholarship. It was at NUS, that the seeds of what I can do with my skills first germinated in my mind. This is where I developed a passion for legal writing and research. After I passed out of NUS, I started working at Trilegal in their employment laws team. I learnt some brilliant life-learnings here, especially, the value of merit. Post that, I worked at Indus Law and Wipro. At Wipro I was working as an Associate Corporate Counsel and was dealing with commercial contracts. This piqued my interest in the same. Contract drafting is also a task which involves myriad interpretations of words. However, despite my interest in commercial contracts drafting, I still yearned for a role where I could put my legal research and writing skills to use. Thankfully, that opportunity came, when a friend of mine approached me to write a few blog posts for his blog. This was when I realized that there is a huge shortage in the market for good legal research professionals. The idea of starting a legal research and writing consultancy took shape in my head during this time. I quit my job and plunged into entrepreneurship. I started with a humble client base and today I have myriad clients from diverse backgrounds. I have rendered legal research solutions to tier-1 law firms, legal startups, universities etc. 

How did you get your first break? 

I was recruited through campus placements to a tier-1 Law firm called Luthra & Luthra. The selection was based on my CGPA, CV and performance in the interview. Please prepare your CV well, before going to an interview. Make sure that the CV is well-rounded and you know what you write in it. 

What were the challenges? How did you address them?

Challenge 1: The first and foremost challenge in landing my first break was to accept the fact that nepotism exists and I need to have an edge to break through the ceiling of nepotism. Nepotism is a life fact. Yes, the guy who has a strong family backing will always have an edge over you. It is up to you to decide that you want to blame your failures on someone else’s privilege or take responsibility to overcome this natural obstacle. 

Challenge 2: Quitting a comfortable, high-paying job, is not the easiest thing to do. Thanks to my family and my husband that I was able to do this. But, if you have confidence in your capabilities you can have the guts to do the same. 

Challenge 3: Being an independent professional also involves a lot of instability and insecurity. I have seen many professionals who got scared and went back to the mainstream workforce. What keeps me going is the ability to cushion this negative with the fact that my true calling, my passion lies here. Also, I know that as an independent professional, I will have to work twice as hard to achieve the same thing as my counterparts in salaried jobs.

Where do you work now? 

I am an independent legal research professional. I render legal research and writing solutions to law firms, legal startups, Edtech platforms and universities. Apart from this I also provide compliance and contract-drafting related services. The skills required are a strong penchant for legal research and writing and to have a strong analytical acumen. I have developed my skills through practical on-job training and from the fact that interpretation of words has always interested me. 

I work from home. I wake up in the morning and sit down to work around 9:30-10. I keep a Google Keep list of all pending tasks along with their deadlines. I routinely deal with different legal topics on which I produce content. No two content are similar. Sometimes I am writing blog posts, sometimes academic articles and sometimes, reports. 

I also run a YouTube channel ( Weekends are reserved for creating content for the same. Apart from legal research, writing and contract drafting, another thing which I have interest in, is teaching. I qualified the UGC-NET in 2018. However, the love for my current profession has prevented me from becoming a full-fledged teacher. Hence, in order to satisfy that side of my interests, I started my YouTube channel where I post educational content pertaining to law. I also run a mentorship programme wherein I select 5-10 students and mentor them with respect to legal research and writing. 

I love the diversity of work which comes with my present work profile. I also love the fact that I get to choose to do what I want. The fact that each day is a new challenge. 

What is Legal Research?

As a lawyer, knowing how to do effective research is very important. Once, one starts researching, there is no end to resources that one may find. Hence, it is very important to cull what is important from the entire milieu of legal research. A litigating lawyer needs legal research for their drafting and arguments purposes, a corporate advisory firm would require legal research for a sound advice, a legal startup would require legal research for compliance purposes etc. It s the first step towards anything one wants to do in the field of law. I have also posted numerous videos on the importance of legal research on my YouTube channel. For instance, if you were told to advise on `how can a company terminate its employees and what are the risks involved?’ How can you do the same, without knowing the various options and the compliances and consequences of the said action. This is where legal research comes in. If someone gave you ready-made legal research, it would make your life very easy. This is where my work comes in.

How does your work benefit society? 

It manifests the importance of legal research and writing. Especially, through the mentorship programme and my YouTube channel, I seek to disburse legal knowledge.

Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!

Tax law has always been one of my weaknesses. However, last year, I got my first tax law related assignment. Finishing it successfully and having the client praise me for the same, gave me an unprecedented confidence.

Your advice to students based on your experience?

Create value in yourself, and success will be yours. Work hard, work smart and make choices based on your interest, not based on public perception.

Future Plans?

A few plans are in the pipeline to expand my venture. Hopefully, they will kick off soon.